England captain says the pressure is for Ponting

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/s/strauss-wi.jpg' class='caption'> Andrew Strauss is used to hearing Australia skipper Ricky Ponting announce the opening batsman will be targeted during the forthcoming Ashes series.

Updated: June 27, 2009 17:42 IST
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England captain Andrew Strauss is used to hearing Australia skipper Ricky Ponting announce the opening batsman will be targeted during the forthcoming Ashes series.

But when asked at a news conference yesterday if England intended to target Ponting, Strauss, in his own understated way, tried to turn the tables on the Tasmanian by pointing out that his rival captain had yet to lead Australia to a Test series win in England.

"Ricky Ponting is a class player," said Strauss, who made two centuries during England's 2-1 home Ashes series win in 2005.

"I'm sure he is dying to win a series in England. He failed last time. Whether that puts him under more pressure or not, that's for him to tell you."

Australia thrashed England 5-0 'Down Under' when the Ashes were last up for grabs in 2006-07.

But since then several key Australian players - leg-spin legend Shane Warne, pace great Glenn McGrath, wicket-keeper/batsman Adam Gilchrist and openers Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden - have all retired from Test cricket.

But despite the absence of these stars, Ponting still led Australia to a 2-1 Test series win in South Africa in March.

"They don't have those legends they had but the guys that have come in have done a good job and they will be determined to make their own mark in Australian cricket," Strauss said.

Australia may not field a specialist spinner at all come the first Ashes Test in Cardiff starting on July 8 even though the pitch in the Welsh city has a reputation for taking turn.

Off-spinner Nathan Hauritz, the lone pure slow bowler in Australia's party, did his prospects little good with a return of none for 98 in 18 overs against a Sussex side with no star batsmen in the tour opener at Hove yesterday.

England, by contrast, have three spinners in their squad in off-break bowler Graeme Swann, leg-spinner Adil Rashid (uncapped at Test level) and left-armer Panesar and could well field two in Cardiff.

"Whether we play two spinners or not, we are going to have to see what the wicket is like in Cardiff. But I think we've got all bases covered at the moment," said Strauss.

And in the likes of pace bowling all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, swing specialist James Anderson and left-armer Ryan Sidebottom, as well as out of favour fast bowler Stephen Harmison, England also have seam bowling options.

"I like the variety in our seam bowling attack," said Strauss, "with some hit the deck bowlers, some swing bowlers and Ryan Sidebottom as the left-armer."

Panesar has seen his place as England's number one spinner usurped by Swann in recent months.

But for all the flak that has come his way from Warne for his failure to develop as a bowler, the 27-year-old Panesar has still taken 125 Test wickets in 38 matches at an average of just over 33 apiece.

Panesar has been working on adding deliveries to his armoury with England's spin bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed, the former Pakistan leg-break bowler.

But Strauss said Panesar needed to remember why he had done well in Tests.

"Monty has been working on variations but the reality is that he has taken 99 percent of his wickets bowling a very good left-arm spinner that turns and has decent pace on it," Strauss said.

"That's his default and he shouldn't stray too far from it. It's like me trying to bat like Brian Lara - it won't work.

"It's important that he just does what he does well and if he does that he's going to be a handful."

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